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Youthful Excitement at Foundations Academy Encourages Engineering Students to Create, Collaborate

What began as an idea for students to learn about engineering turned into a study on getting along, compromise, and growth. Foundations Academy Science Teacher Emily Hickman and Social Studies Teacher Rachel Deppe worked together to offer an engineering class and witnessed growth in their scholars.
 student built mini golf course
Director of School Quality Cathy Henkenberns talks to students while they build the golf course.

In the class, students focused on a variety of engineering challenges (like protecting an egg when dropped from a height). Hickman proposed the idea of another challenge for the students after a recent miniature golf course outing with Foundations Math Teacher Emily Steavenson.
“The engineering class was a collaboration between Rachel and me,” Hickman said. “The class was used for students to implement concepts about physics and teamwork. We were discussing the physics behind each golf hole. She mentioned that the eighth graders in physics would be able to build something like this and I thought this was a great idea for the engineering class.”
 student building his mini golf course
A Foundations student prepares to play miniature golf on the special course.

Physical Education Teacher Toby Herman, in the process of completing his alternative licensure program, offered his assistance as part of his program to collaborate with a core content teacher.
“We discussed the possibility of his students learning the basics of golf and the engineering students would build a miniature golf course for them to utilize,” Hickman said.
 student built mini golf course
Foundations students play on the miniature golf course.

The project wasn’t without challenges as Deppe’s class struggled early to work as a group and Hickman’s class became frustrated when they couldn’t decide on a theme.
“The responsibility of bringing supplies and coming to a consensus about design was a great growth experience for the engineering students,” Deppe said. “Both classes struggled with responding to failure and adapting to a new plan for the build. Overall, the students responded well to the challenges and maintained a growth mindset throughout the class.”
As the project came together, it was clear the true reward for the work came when the elementary-aged students came ready to play. The course was arranged in the gym and the engineering students joined their younger schoolmates for a game. It’s that kind of connection between students and educators that has helped Foundations Academy outperform the local district for the past 10 years.
 student built mini golf course
Foundations students play on the miniature golf course.

“The older engineering students took the project more seriously when they saw its value for our school community,” Hickman said. “The eighth graders enjoyed working with and seeing the excitement the lower elementary students had while playing on the course.”
Great work teaching collaboration and problem solving, Foundations!

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About Foundations Academy
Foundations Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Brighton, Colorado, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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